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NORTHFIELD, Minn. — Redshirt freshman running back Brenton Braddock’s three touchdowns sparked the fifth-ranked St. Thomas football team past Carleton College 47-24 Saturday, Sept. 29, at Laird Stadium.
This win marked the Tommies’ 20th successive defeat of the Knights (2-2, 1-2) and their 28th consecutive conference win. Saturday’s game was St. Thomas’ only regular season game on a grass field.
The Tommies (4-0 overall, 2-0 MIAC) scored three touchdowns in the first half. On St. Thomas’ first offensive play, sophomore quarterback Matt O’Connell hit sophomore wide receiver Dan Ferrazzo on a bubble screen for a 79-yard touchdown down the left sideline, putting their team ahead 6-0 after a failed two-point try.
Ferrazzo’s touchdown marked the second consecutive game where the Tommies scored on their first offensive play.
Coach Glenn Caruso doesn’t feel scoring first is the team’s top priority.
“We don’t really pay too much attention to scoring early,” Caruso said. “It’s tough to establish a rhythm when you do score quickly.”
Carleton got on the board with a 27-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Kyle Kasten, capping a seven-play drive and bringing his team to a 6-3 deficit.
Braddock and O’Connell added rushing touchdowns of 54 and 56 yards in the first half, giving St. Thomas a 20-10 lead at halftime. Carleton’s only touchdown of the half came from sophomore linebacker Zach Heinrich’s 53-yard pass off a fake punt to junior wide receiver Chase Gottschalk.
Braddock, who missed the entire 2011-2012 season with a broken leg, was “on top of the world” after recording his first career touchdown as a Tommie.
“This year finally coming back, (scoring) on the field, it was a great feeling,” Braddock said.
On the Tommies’ opening possession of the second half, O’Connell connected with junior wide receiver Dan Noehring for a 20-yard touchdown pass, giving St. Thomas a 26-10 lead. The touchdown marked O’Connell’s third of the day (two passing, one rushing).
Following junior linebacker Tremayne Williams’ interception deep in Knight territory, Braddock ran in from two yards on fourth and goal, giving the Tommies a 34-10 lead. Braddock added another 5-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter.
Braddock finished the afternoon with three touchdowns and 123 yards rushing.
Caruso said he wasn’t surprised by Braddock’s performance.
“He (Braddock) had a phenomenal spring (practice) and great off-season,” Caruso said. “He’s a really athletic kid, who’s extremely tough and ridiculously thoughtful. When you mix those three things together, you’ve got yourself a good tailback.”
Tommie senior safety Josh Carey said he thought the defensive preparation assisted in holding the Knights to 116 yards rushing.
“We always try to stop the run first,” Carey explained. “Everything else will follow.”
Carleton junior quarterback Conor Lynch found junior wide receiver C.J. Dale for a 20-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Knight deficit to 41-17 with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.
St. Thomas freshman running back Jack Kaiser rumbled six yards into the end zone early in the fourth, giving St. Thomas a 47-17 lead. It was the Tommies seventh touchdown of the day.
Carleton senior running back Jordan Butler ran in from 11 yards for the final points of the game.
Tommies look to fine tune mistakes
Carey believes the defense has room for improvement heading into next weekend.
“Unfortunately, they scored more points then we would have liked,” Carey said. “We have to play more confidently.”
With the Tommies leading by 37 in the second half, many reserves saw the field, something Caruso believes is a “good thing.”
Braddock felt the Tommies played well, but need to refine points of their game.
“We didn’t play as well as we expected to play,” Braddock said. “We’ve got to take this momentum, have a good week of practice, and just keep rolling.”
With the Tommies’ second home game of the season coming next weekend, the team is looking to click on all cylinders.
“We were able to ground and pound a little bit today,” Caruso said. “A lot of things to work on, but we’ll be all right for next week.”
St. Thomas hosts Gustavus Adolphus College Saturday, Oct. 6, at O’Shaughnessy Stadium.
Ross Schreck can be reached at email@example.com.